There are precious few situations in which you can meet someone for the first time and, in that same situation, have a conversation with that person about faith. At least, there are precious few where you can have that happen naturally. You could knock on somebody's door and ask them if they know where they go when they die, but that's really unnatural. And honestly pretty unappealing for both sides.
Public events are very difficult arenas for meaningful conversation of any kind, let alone spiritual, because even though they are open to anybody, everyone tends to stick to who they know.
And to try engaging people while shopping or running errands of any sort is difficult, because we're all on a mission then. We don't make eye contact let alone stop and have a conversation about the way our soul hurts.
So we have to wonder - in what possible context can you speak the words of life and grace and peace that mean such a great deal to you and have an audience that wants to listen? Where is there no watch-glancing, no list-checking - just honest and heartfelt conversation about Jesus' transformative righteousness?
It's not, unfortunately, at church. It can be, sometimes is, but we typically have our guard up a little when we are in the sanctuary. We check our hair in the car before we enter the building. We see people and we know they love us enough to keep us accountable and so we put on a better face for them. Not a bad thing, necessarily. (Though as we work on developing a genuine community of caring and real relationships we hope for honest moments and the downfall of pride.)
The best place, though, to have a conversation that lets you express your faith and let's people honestly listen and respond is the home. If they trust you enough to enter your living room, you can start being genuine. If they trust you enough to invite you into theirs, you can really show you care.
The wonderful thing is that if, in fact, this is true, and it's in our homes and across our tables that the Gospel has the best chance of being honestly spoken and respectfully heard, then pursuing true, genuine, close, metaphorical-door-opening friendships is not just the way Christians live out the love the Spirit creates in them - it's the way the Spirit brings that love into the lives of others.
Jesus didn't invite Zaccheus to worship. He didn't tell the woman at the well to come to Bible Class. He entered their lives and cared about them. He went where they would be and carried on meaningful conversations with them and proved that he really, really loved them.
This is why a Christian person will not only seek to have true and genuine relationships filled with love and grace, but will also seek to make God's word a core, essential part of fabric of their lives. Because you can't learn some script and you can't memorize the right words in order to trick someone into listening to you. You can't randomly hand someone a tract or trifold and expect them to understand Jesus love.
You have to show them that Jesus' love permeates you and transforms you every day - a feat only accomplished by consistent investment in the Word and the Spirit. You have to be prepared to answer not just their nifty theological questions but also their deepest, darkest doubts about death in Nepal and riots in Baltimore. You can't do that by just cramming before the tests come. You have to build simple daily disciplines that exponentially pay off over the course of the Christian life.
You can knock on somebody's door and say, "Hi. Can we talk?" but I'm not sure how well that's going to work. Imagine, on the other hand, if they, knowing you care about them and knowing that some great love has made a real impact on your life, knocked on your door and said, "Hi. Can we talk?" Now that's a situation where we can have an actual, beneficial conversation about faith.
- Pastor Kent Reeder